Going to a school in another country can be a daunting experience. You are unfamiliar with the location and local customs. Worse still, school is an unknown quantity. Will it be good? Will teachers be understanding and patient? Will it meet your educational needs?
Unfortunately for one student from Fukuoka, his experience at Japanese language school was about as bad as it gets. Now the school faces what amounts to a financial death sentence for its wrongdoing.
He tried to leave. Here’s what happened next
The school in question is the Nishinihon International Education Institute (西日本国際教育学院). The student was a Vietnamese in his twenties. In October 2021, he approaches his teacher and tells him of his desire to change schools.
What happened next was shocking. The teacher wouldn’t let the student go. Quite the contrary – he hooked a chain around his and the student’s belt, then padlocked the chain. Footage shot by the student shows the professor laughing as he restrains his victim. Another teacher was apparently present but did nothing to stop this.
The teachers kept the student detained for hours. They then let him go back to his dormitory. However, the student later said the school was watching him closely so he couldn’t leave his accommodation until the next day..
A violation of human rights
Obviously, this is not the educational experience anyone envisions when going to a language school. News of the school’s behavior reached the Japan Immigration Bureau, which certifies schools so they can accept foreign nationals on student visas.
When confronted, the school admitted the basic facts to the Bureau of Immigration. However, they insisted, they were a single teacher’s “bad joke” and did not represent a set school policy. (That is, they deployed the “one bad teacher” defense.) The school argued that the student had never been harmed, so everything was good.
The Japanese immigration office did not have this explanation. On September 7, the Bureau withdrew the school’s certification to accept international students. This means, according to local reports, that Nishinihon will not be able to accept international students for the next five years.
The school is appealing the judgment. In the meantime, the Bureau of Immigration is encouraging the 630 students currently enrolled in the school to consider transferring to other schools.
There are some 820 such language schools in Japan. In 2016, the Bureau of Immigration established standards for removing a school from the immigration list. However, this extraordinary situation is the first since the rule was applied.
Let’s be careful there
This article is not intended to deter anyone from applying to a Japanese language school in Japan.
Yes, you can study through online courses. But studying Japanese in Japan is an amazing opportunity. Not only can you study the language with native speakers, but you can also use it in your daily life during your residency. If you have the time and the money, a language school can be a great way to take your Japanese skills to the next level.
But you need to be careful. Make sure you have thoroughly researched a school before spending your money on tuition and airfare. Make sure it has been running for a while and has a good reputation.
Also, make sure you know your rights – and who can help you if you have a problem. Non-profit organizations like NPO Posse exist in Japan to help international workers and students assert their rights and seek redress.
What to read next
 鎖と南京錠で留学生を拘束 笑いながら…「日本語学校」処分. FNN
 福岡の日本語教育機関入管庁が処分. Asahi Shinbun
 Nishinihon International Institute of Education